“Many Mansions”

The Alexander Jablokov series continues.

Raw Feed (1989): “Many Mansions”, Alexander Jablokov, 1988.Many Mansions

A great, funny, original story whose inspiration seems to be Marx’s (out of context) remark that religion is the opium of the masses.

Jablokov takes the metaphor literally and to much humorous effect. If religion is an opium, what do you do with opium? You smuggle it.

I loved the end with Kinbarn, religion addict and smuggler, overdosing on religion, his soul permanently in Nirvana.

One could quibble and ask why the Temporal Constabulary seems to be so unaware of the magnitude of the smuggling operation, or one could wish for more details on how religious addicts get their fix (going through the rituals? handling the icons? studying the theology?), but plausibility takes a back seat to this inventive, humorous tale.

Jablokov can handle humor here as well as horror in his “Deathbinder“. He is a writer of many moods and tones but always inventive.


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.


“The Space-Eaters”

Another recent reading for the Deep Ones discussion group at LibraryThing.

Review: “The Space-Eaters”, Frank Belknap Long, 1927.Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos

In his H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, S. T. Joshi says the following:

This story can be said to have two distinctive qualities. It is the first work to involve Lovecraft as a character … and – although this point is somewhat debatable – it is the first “addition” to Lovecraft’s mythos.

And yet, to be perfectly honest, “The Space-Eaters” is a preposterous and ridiculous story.

Well, I’ve certainly read worse stories in and out of the Mythos. But it’s not a good story, and I’ve briefly talked about it before.

I don’t think it is a Cthulhu Mythos story. It references none of the locations, blasphemous tomes, or “deities” of that vast conception carried on for 90 some years now. The brain-eating menace from space isn’t even given a name.

The story is 32 pages long, and, for most of that, Long fails to create any sense of menace or wonder except for a couple brief scenes.

The story has Howard, a writer, and Frank, his narrator and friend. Yes, that’s Howard as in Howard Phillips Lovecraft and Frank as in Frank Belknap Long.

Lovecraft’s only requirement for his fictional portrayal was that he be shown as “LEAN” since he was a bit pudgy during his recent failed marriage and exile in New York City and had lost the weight.

Writer Howard opens the story complaining of his inability to write a horror that “transcends everything” and then goes on a riff imagining a horror that “could eat their way to us through space!”.

Long seems to be having a bit of fun with his friend Lovecraft and making some sly, personal jokes because the very first page of the story sums up Howard’s opinion, not all that favorable, of many of the authors Lovecraft mentions favorably in his Supernatural Horror in Literature: Bram Stoker, Anne Radcliffe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Algernon Blackwood. Lovecraft’s idol Edgar Allan Poe even gets criticized has having “really accomplished very little with his Lady Ushers, and liquescent Valdemars”.

Howard also trembles and gets angry at several points in the story whereas I think of Lovecraft as probably often stoic or good-humored with only occasional outbursts of exasperation or anger.

Howard also laments that he is not a mathematician and cannot glimpse the “strange curves and angles” of the fourth dimension. This may, as well as bringing to mind Long’s far better tale of menacing geometry, “The Hounds of Tindalos”, may be a reference to Lovecraft’s lack of mathematical aptitude keeping him from his intended career as an astronomer.

Anyway, a local man, Henry Wells shows up Frank’s house, with an odd story and an odd injury.

And here is where Long makes his biggest mistake.

A classical opening gambit for a Mythos story is to make some grand philosophical observation based on the events later in the story. Perhaps the best examples from Lovecraft’s work are the beginning of “The Call of Cthulhu” and “At the Mountains of Madness”.

Long wants us to swallow the coincidence that Howard’s opening speculations are realized in random later events.

Wells has an odd hole in the right side of his. It’s clean and bloodless and may just go into the middle of his brain.

He tells us how he got it. He was driving his horse and cart that foggy night through Mulligan Wood, a rather sinister place whose menacing vegetation may be a reference to Lovecraft’s recently completed “The Colour Out of Space”. He feels something odd drop on his head, something soft and with a jelly-like consistency.

Then he sees what looks like a thin white arm, and just the arm, descend from the tree tops and grope around the ground.

Wells and his horse bolt away, but then he feels a lancing, ice cold pain in his skull, passes out for ten minutes and then goes to Frank’s house.

Howard thinks this is a splendid story, an “accidental tour de force”, and that Wells’ wound is self-inflicted, that Wells is crazy.

Wells is not happy to be thought a liar and is overcome with pain again and runs into the night.

Frank and Howard decide they really should go find him and get a doctor, so they go into Mulligan Wood. After seeing the shapes of “venomous tongues and leering eyes” in the fog, they find the screaming Wells and take him back to the house, tie him up, and call for Dr. Smith.

Smith doesn’t think Wells is going to last long, and one of two effective episodes in the story is his probing of Wells’ head and wound.

Smith is aghast. He believes they are dealing with an alien menace, and Frank’s house is now marked for destruction.

Howard and Frank agree a menace is out in the foggy night and head for Frank’s launch and the sea. Mulligan Wood is alive with ominous dronings and humming.

They make it to the launch and, at sea, they see a “vast, formless shape” above the forest which has, unaccountably, started to burn.

And here Long makes his second mistake. The alien menace is kept at bay with some burning cotton from the boat and the sign of the cross. Banal folk magic defeating cosmic menace is a mistake Lovecraft made in “The Dreams of the Witch House”.

And there concludes the first part of the story.

The second part has Howard trying to turn the whole thing into a story. Frank thinks that’s a blasphemous violation of “the privacies of the mind”, that the story is too convincing, too real. The event should be suppressed. (Which picks up a theme of many of Lovecraft’s stories: the suppression of the truth by individuals and institutions.)

Howard refuses, and, in the concluding third section, Frank gets a strange call from Howard. “They’ve come back! I have become a priest of the Devil.”.

Frank goes to Howard’s house where he sees strange shafts of light penetrating Howard’s head, Howard who is lying on the floor, his hands before his eyes as if blotting out a hellish vision.

And when strange sounds come from Howard’s mouth, Frank makes the sign of the cross, the house starts burning, and Frank leaves his dead friend on the floor.


More reviews of Lovecraft related material are indexed on the Lovecraft page.

And more reviews of fantastic fiction in general are indexed on the title and author/editor pages.

“At the Cross-Time Jaunters’ Ball”

The Alexander Jablokov series continues.

Raw Feed (1989): “At the Cross-Time Jaunters’ Ball”, Alexander Jablokov, 1987.At the Cross-Time Jaunters Ball

Jablokov creates many memorable scenes in the space of a novellette — particularly the monks testing atom bombs on the ruins of Venice and dying artists, poisoned by radiation, creating a sculpture of exquisite beauty.

Jablokov does, to my knowledge, two entirely new things with the parallel worlds/alternate history concept.

First parallel worlds are created in great numbers as an art form.

Second (as with all art forms), critics like the protagonist exist to analyze that art.

There is an underlying tone of callousness and horror as these artists destroy entire worlds or create perverted societies to achieve the desired effects in the Shadow worlds (shades — no pun intended — of Roger Zelazny’s Amber series). The artists regard these worlds as unreal, subjects for aesthetic and intellectual examination not empathy.

The revelation to the narrator and critic, Jacob Landstatter, by his friend and world artist Samos Halicarnassus, that Jacob and his world are a shadow created by Halicarnassus and that the latter’s world is also a Shadow creation creates a snese of unease. There seem to be no “real” worlds. It’s art all the way down. Continue reading ““At the Cross-Time Jaunters’ Ball””



It’s going to be a while before I get any new reviews up, so I thought I’d do another series.

This one will be on Alexander Jablokov, a science fiction author whose literary career started in 1985 and went through 1998 followed by a hiatus and a return to fiction in 2006.

I’ve read most of his work and reviewed a few pieces of his before.

Raw Feed (1988): “Deathbinder”, Alexander Jablokov, 1988.Deathbinder

A truly innovative (at least to my limited knowledge) twist on the traditional ghost story — staking ghosts out till Judgement Day so their presence does not taint the lives of the living ( a new concept to me also).

I liked the genuinely eerie, creepy touch of Doctor Harmon’s wife staked to the bed beside him and constantly muttering in her half “sleep”.

Jablokov came up with a good link between hauntings and life support technology. This is the second story I’ve read by him, and he seems innovative and a competent stylist.

I also liked the longing for life of the ghosts, and the bitterness Dr. Harmon feels over his ability to see, hear, and talk to ghosts. His anguish and dedication at binding ghosts to death was well expressed.


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.



Stealing Other People’s Homework: “7 Reasons Why Robert Silverberg Remains a Must-Read”


As an accompaniment to today’s review of The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Seven, I present Silverberg scholar Alvaro Zinos-Amaro’s look at that protean author.


The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Seven: We Are for the Dark, 1987-90

I’ve never entertained the idea review all the works of Robert Silverberg. That would be a colossal undertaking given his volume of work even in science fiction.

But I do seem to have reviewed a lot of Silverberg’s short fiction.

And I read some more this past summer with more in the pipeline to review.

Low Res Scan: The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Five: We Are for the Dark, 1987-1990, ed. Robert Silverberg, 2012.We Are for the Dark

It’s a low res scan because I’ve looked at many of the ten works here before and don’t have much to add on re-reading.

Three of the pieces are novellas.

This time around “In Another Country”, Silverberg’s variation on the themes of C. L. Moore’s “Vintage Season”, reminded me just how many stories of his play with the motif of rich time traveling tourists (and, here, definitely white) from the far future visiting the past: “Sailing to Byzantium”, Up the Line, “The Far Side of the Bell-Shaped Curve”, and “When We Went to See the End of the World”. Granted, “Sailing to Byzantium” has super sophisticated reconstructions of the past, but it feels like time travel. “When We Went to See the End of the World” inverts the theme with near future time travelers.

Silverberg’s introductory notes for the story reveal his admiration of Moore. As to the story itself, this time I noticed Thimiroi, alone of the time travelers, finding beauty in the flat, discordant, unplanned beauty of the unnamed city of the late 20th century. To him, it’s the energy of a people who have survived the brutal horrors of that time. Continue reading “The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Seven: We Are for the Dark, 1987-90”


Corum: The Prince with the Silver Hand

And this is probably the last of the Michael Moorcock series.

Long time readers of this blog will not be surprised that I somehow never managed to read the last three volumes of White Wolf Publishing’s Eternal Champion reprints.

Raw Feed (1999): Corum: The Prince with the Silver Hand, Michael Moorcock, 1973, 1999.Corum The Prince with the SIlver Hand

Introduction” — Not much here except a listing of Irish writers that influenced Moorcock.

The Bull and the Spear — I liked this second Corum trilogy (at least, this first book of the second trilogy) about as well as the first. The cold-enshrouded, winter-bearing Fhoi Myore were interesting villains. Calatin was an intriguing character. With him, Moorcock seemed to be doing a variation on the mad scientist, a critique of the sort of ruthless scientific questing that sacrifices morality, ideology, and family.

The Oak and the Ram — It was nice to see the enigmatic Gaynor the Damned as well as Jhary-a-Conel. I liked Moorcock emphasizing Corum and Goffanon’s befuddlement at the encroaching magic in the Mabden world. I liked the bits about the rescue of Amergin being rescued from Caer Llud. (Evidently, Gaynor the Damned in the first Corum trilogy, but I don’t remember his appearance.) The Fhoi Myore (not gods of Chaos but Lords of Limbo, a change of pace for Eternal Champion stories) are depicted as not evil but simple-minded, needy entities exiled from their world. The dream visions of Corum into his other incarnations as the Eternal Champion (including worlds depicted in the Eternal Champion novels I’ve read) were interesting. I liked Jhary-a-Conel complaining about the limited imagination of the gods in regard to horns:

“Horns for bringing the apocalypse [a reference to Elric], horns for calling demons – now horns for handling dogs?”

The Sword and the Stallion — This was the most interesting book of the second Corum trilogy. The whole end, where Corum is regarded as a traitor, was an interesting turn on the usual Eternal Champion story. Corum’s story echoes (not for the first time proving that some thought went into the ordering of this White Wolf series of Eternal Champion stories) Elric’s in some ways. He gets a magical sword, Traitor, which has a sinister ability to kill Corum’s friends (in this case Goffanon). His life ends at the point of this sword after greatly changing the world (here helping to purge it of “sorcery and demigods”. Corum and Goffanon worry about the influence of an alliance with the sinister Malibann (who seem an echo, ruby throne, sorcery, empire and all, of Elric’s Melniboneans) on Mabden rationality. They might view the world magically – presumably the reason Corum can not be allowed to remain in the Mabden world. The treachery of Medhbh (a sinister prophecy warns Corum about a harp, beauty, and a brother) was not unexpected but still shocking. I wonder in Celtic mythology, the importance of Dagdagh who Medhbh is so loyal to.


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.